Nov 9 (Reuters) – Maxwell Frost had just been elected to represent Florida in the U.S. Congress when the 25-year-old received a call that embodied the historical moment.
“Still thinking about that ‘please hold for the President’ call last night,” Frost tweeted on Wednesday. “Life is wild!”
It was U.S. President Joe Biden, a fellow Democrat calling with congratulations on being the first person of Generation Z elected to Congress as a member of the House of Representatives.
The progressive candidate campaigned on reforming gun laws, expanding health care, increasing housing access and addressing climate change on his way to win 59% of the vote in Florida’s 10th Congressional District.
The district is a Democratic stronghold that includes the Orlando area. Frost powered his campaign with $2.6 million in fundraising, according to federal election filings, to defeat Republican Calvin Wimbish.
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In the 435-member legislative body whose current members average 58 years of age, Frost will be the lone voice of “Generation Z-ers,” some 70 million Americans born between the late 1990s and early 2010s.
In a news conference later that day, the 79-year-old Biden, who was first elected U.S. senator five decades ago, forecast a lengthy political career for Frost.
“I have no doubt he’s off to an incredible start in what I’m sure will be a long, distinguished career,” Biden said.
‘BOLD, TRANSFORMATIONAL CHANGE’
Appearing on ABC on Wednesday, Frost noted that Gen Z and millennial voters, who increasingly make up a larger share of the voting population, were instrumental in weakening a so-called “red wave” for Republicans. Biden himself showed gratitude to younger voters who made it to the polls.
“What that shows me is that there’s a lot of hope and promise in this nation as young people are starting to rise up and really step into their political power,” Frost said.
Identifying as Afro-Latino, Frost’s background reflects a generation of Americans that is more racially and ethnically diverse than older age groups.
Another Gen Z candidate, Republican Karoline Leavitt, lost her congressional race in New Hampshire.
Gen Z voters have come of age in a world reshaped by the global pandemic that disrupted work and school culture, all while stirring economic uncertainty. A growing share of the voting population, their experiences are also shaped by the ubiquity of social media and a pattern of school shootings.
Before his run for office, Frost was a national organizing director for gun safety group March For Our Lives, started by survivors of the 2018 massacre at a Parkland, Florida, high school. He is calling for “bold transformational change.”
One of his first priorities is to find common ground to pass universal background checks on guns, he told CNN on Wednesday.
Frost defeated two former representatives and a state senator in a crowded field for his party’s nomination. Reuniting with his biological mother, who struggled with substance abuse, inspired his run for Congress, he said.
Frost will replace Representative Val Demings, who lost a bid for U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Marco Rubio.